In Canada, criminal offences are categorized as summary offences, indictable offences, or hybrid offences. One important difference is that summary offences are less serious than indictable ones. Individuals who are facing criminal charges in Canada need to understand how summary offences differ from indictable offences.
Understanding the differences between summary and indictable offences can help accused individuals develop strong case strategies. The facts and evidence related to the case may influence whether the Crown chooses to charge an offence as either a summary or indictable offence. These decisions can have a profound influence on whether an accused faces a trial before a judge or a trial before a jury. Also, whether an accused is charged with a summary or an indictable offence can influence the sentencing phase of your criminal trial.
Knowing the differences between summary and indictable offences can help accused individuals decide how best to proceed with seeking legal representation. Understanding your rights will help you decide on how best to develop a strong defence that can help you protect your liberty.
Section 787 of the Criminal Code concerns summary offences. The maximum punishment that an individual convicted of a summary offence may receive is a $5,000 fine and a prison sentence of up to two years less a day. Courts may also impose terms of community service or a suspended sentence. Also, individuals convicted of summary offences may be required to pay compensation for damages.
Provincial courts oversee trials for summary offences. Police officers may not take an individual’s fingerprints if they are charged with a summary offence. Those who are convicted of a summary offence will have a permanent criminal record. However, convicted individuals can petition to have their records cleared after a specific period of time following the completion of the imposed sentence.
The following offences are listed as summary offences under the Canadian Criminal Code:
- Breach of Non-Publication in Jury Trial
- Public Nudity
- Soliciting Prostitution
- Disturbances in A Public Place
- Unlawful Assembly
- Trespassing at Night
In some cases, you may not have to appear in court if you have a lawyer and are charged with a summary offence. However, a judge may still order you to appear in some specific cases. In some cases, the accused may not have to make any court appearances whatsoever. Sometimes, these decisions are made on a case-by-case basis, according to the judge.
Indictable offences are more serious than summary offences, and individuals convicted of indictable offences will face more severe sanctions and penalties. The penalty will depend on the specific indictable offence committed by the defendant. Murder, sexual assault, breaking and entering, and theft over $5,000 are indictable offences.
Indictable offences can be decided by either a judge or a jury, but some specific indictable offences can only be decided by a jury. Police officers can also take an accused’s fingerprints if they are charged with an indictable offence. Indictable convictions remain on the accused’s criminal record permanently.
Indictable offences may be punished by a term of imprisonment ranging from two years to life in prison. Sentences longer than two years must be served in federal prison.
The majority of criminal offences under Canadian law can be charged as either a summary offence or an indictable offence. The Crown makes the decision whether to charge an individual with a summary or indictable offence. If the accused individual has an extensive criminal history, the Crown may elect to charge the offence as an indictable offence. However, if the accused has no criminal history and public interest will not be harmed, the Crown may elect to charge the accused with an indictable offence.
Sexual assault is a hybrid offence under Canadian law. The Crown will examine the nature and gravity of the sexual act before electing to charge the accused with a summary or indictable offence. The following are common hybrid offences in Canada:
- Possession of a Controlled Substance
- Sexual Assault
- Assault with a Weapon
- Impaired Driving
No statute of limitations exists for hybrid offences or indictable offences.
Punishments for Summary and Indictable Offences
The maximum punishment that an individual convicted of a summary offence may receive is a $5,000 fine and a prison sentence of up to two years less a day. Courts may also impose terms of community service or a suspended sentence. Also, individuals convicted of summary offences may be required to pay compensation for damages.
Specific cases may feature a range of possible sanctions and penalties. Speaking with an experienced criminal defence lawyer can help you determine what to expect as your case proceeds to trial. No two criminal cases are exactly alike. Specific facts that only relate to your case will often be an important factor in sentencing decisions.
Modes of Trial in Summary and Indictable Offences
Provincial courts oversee trials for summary offences. Indictable offences can be decided by a judge or a jury, although specific indictable offences can only be decided by a jury. It is important to understand that the Crown can elect to charge many offences as either summary or indictable offences. A criminal lawyer can help you prepare for every aspect of your criminal case.
Facing criminal charges can be stressful and intimidating. Retaining an experienced criminal defence lawyer can help you protect your rights.
Vilkhov Law values its clients, and we work hard to achieve their goals. Contact us today at (416) 807-4477 to schedule a free consultation. Reach out today to learn how we can help you with your criminal case.